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Cooper v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

February 15, 2018

GARY COOPER, Plaintiff,
The CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.

          Kevin T. Turkcan One of Plaintiff's Attorneys.


          KENNELLY Judge.

         Plaintiff Gary Cooper respectfully requests that this Court enter a judgment as a matter of law on his Fourth Amendment unlawful entry claim because Defendant Officers did not have a warrant, exigent circumstances, or consent to enter his apartment on March 22, 2014.


         There is no dispute that Defendant Officers made a warrantless entry into Cooper's home on March 22, 2014 and that neither Cooper nor his girlfriend D'Andrea Crossley consented to that warrantless entry. Defendant Officers have been fully heard with respect to their reasons for entering Cooper's apartment without a warrant, and none of those reasons amount to a reasonable belief that someone inside the apartment was in need of immediate emergency aid. Plaintiff is entitled to a judgment at a matter of law that Defendant Officers' warrantless entry of his apartment on March 22, 2014 was unlawful.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) provides as follows:

(1) If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a…defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue.
(2) Motions for judgment as a matter of law may be made at any time before submission of the case to the jury. Such a motion shall specify the judgment sought and the law and the facts on which the moving party is entitled to judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a).

         The Fourth Amendment protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. Amend. IV. “[P]hysical entry of the home is the chief evil” that the Fourth Amendment targets, United States v. United States District Court for the E. Dist. of Mich., S. Div., 407 U.S. 297, 313 (1972), and it is “a ‘basic principle of Fourth Amendment law' that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586 (1980) (quoting Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 477 (1971)). The Fourth Amendment “prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine…arrest, even for a felony, and even with probable cause.” Hawkins v. Mitchell, 756 F.3d 983, 992 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Payton, 445 U.S. at 576)).

         That said, the Fourth Amendment does allow police officers to enter a home without a warrant or consent when (1) probable cause supports the entry and (2) exigent circumstances exist. United States v. Andrews, 442 F.3d 996, 1000 (7th Cir. 2006). Exigent circumstances “exist when there is a compelling need for official action and no time to secure a warrant, such as when an officer must enter premises to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury.” United States v. Venters, 539 F.3d 801, 807 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks and citations omitted). However, the Seventh Circuit has explained that “exigent circumstances do not exist when the underlying offense is minor, typically a misdemeanor.” Hawkins, 756 F.3d at 992. It should be noted that characterizing a warrantless entry of a home as a “well-being check” or a “premises check” does not change the Fourth Amendment analysis. See Sutterfield v. City of Milwaukee, 751 F.3d 542, 553-54 (7th Cir. 2014) (the “community caretaking function” exception to the warrant requirement only applies to searches of automobiles, not searches of homes); Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 842 F.Supp.2d 1064 (N.D. Ill. 2014) (applying the Fourth Amendment exigent circumstances test to a warrantless search of a home that the police characterized as a “well-being check.”).

         Defendant Officers admit that they did not have a warrant to search Cooper's apartment. Thus, their entry into Cooper's home was presumptively unreasonable as a matter of law, and they must show that either (1) they had consent of a resident of the apartment to enter or (2) that probable cause and exigent circumstances justified their warrantless entry and search. A landlord cannot consent to a search of his tenant's leasehold. U.S. v. Chaidez, 919 F.2d 1193, 1201 (7th Cir. 1990) (citing Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610 (1961)). Furthermore, exigent circumstances did not justify Defendant Officers' warrantless entry because they were, at most, investigating a property damage and noise complaint. Nothing in the record suggests that Defendant Officers thought anyone inside the apartment was injured or that evidence of a serious crime was being destroyed. Thus, this Court should grant judgment as a matter of law in Cooper's favor on his unlawful entry claim.

         I. Cooper did not consent to Defendant Officers' entry, and as a matter of law, Cooper's landlord could not provide consent.

         It is undisputed that neither Cooper nor his girlfriend consented to Defendant Officers' search of their apartment. Thus, the only source of “consent” that Defendant Officers can point to is Cubic, who opened the door to Cooper's apartment for them. However, a landlord does not have authority to permit a search of his tenant's leasehold. Chaidez, 919 F.2d at 1201. The Supreme Court has explained that this rule exists because a “tenant in the ordinary course does not take premises subject to any formal or informal agreement that the landlord may let visitors into the dwelling…neither state-law property rights, nor common contractual arrangements, nor any other source points to a common understanding of authority to admit third parties generally without the consent of a person occupying the premises.” Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 112 (2006). Thus, a person on the scene who identifies himself as a landlord calls up no authority to admit police without the consent of the current occupant. Id.

         Cubic's status as Cooper's landlord does not mean that Defendant Officers had “consent” to enter Cooper's apartment. The evidence establishes that Defendant Officers knew that Apartment 310 West was leased and occupied by tenants who had not consented to their entry or search. Rather, only the landlord requested and purported to authorize the search. As a matter of law, there was no reason for Defendant Officers to think that Cubic had authority, or even apparent authority, to consent to the search because they knew that he was just the landlord. See Randolph, 547 U.S. at 112. While it is possible that certain unusual tenancy agreements could provide a landlord with such authority, Defendants have not established and cannot establish that Cooper and Crossley's lease allowed Cubic “an unfettered right to allow third parties to access [Cooper's] property without his consent.” Montgomery v. Village of Posen, ...

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